DRC: IRIN Background report on peace efforts [19990622]

DRC: IRIN Background report on peace efforts [19990622]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: IRIN Background report on peace efforts

NAIROBI, 22 June (IRIN) - DRC peace talks this week in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, are expected to try to merge the various mediation initiatives aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The following provides background information on the principal peace efforts since the start of the conflict in August 1998.

The Lusaka peace process

The annual summit of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), held in Mauritius on 13-14 September, appointed Zambian President Frederick Chiluba to lead mediation efforts, assisted by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

Under the initiative, several ministerial meetings have been held, but a heads of state summit originally scheduled for early December to secure a ceasefire was postponed several times. One of the problems has been disagreement over the participation of Congolese rebels in the negotiations.

Two committees under the Lusaka peace process have drafted "modalities" for the implementation of an eventual ceasefire agreement and collected information on the security concerns of the DRC and its neighbours. Meetings this week in Lusaka are expected to culminate in a heads of state summit on Saturday, at which Chiluba hopes a ceasefire agreement will be signed.

Presidents Mkapa and Chissano have held their own contacts with parties to the conflict to discuss peace prospects, but it is unclear how closely those efforts have been coordinated with those of Chiluba.

The Sirte agreement

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's diplomatic contacts with countries involved in the conflict began in September and intensified in December when he met separately with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Official Libyan communiques have since referred to Gaddafi as the "Coordinator of the Peace Process in the Great Lakes."

On 18 April, Gaddafi brokered a peace agreement between Museveni and Kabila, also signed by the Presidents of Chad and Eritrea, in the Libyan town of Sirte, which called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC. Subsequently, Chad withdrew its troops from the country and Libya sent some 40 military personnel to Uganda to prepare for the deployment of a proposed neutral African peacekeeping force under the Sirte accord. However, Rwanda and the other countries with forces in the DRC were not party to the Sirte agreement.

On 15 May, Gaddafi hosted a mini-summit of African leaders in Sirte to discuss peace efforts and the implementation of the Sirte accord.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU)

At the start of the conflict, OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim sent emissaries to Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC to investigate the reported "invasion" of the DRC. In September, the OAU hosted a meeting of ministers in Addis Ababa during which a draft ceasefire agreement was formulated.

That agreement, though agreed in principle by the belligerents, was never signed. The OAU has supported and participated in the Lusaka negotiations, and Salim has helped organise meetings between the parties to try to advance peace prospects.

The United Nations

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan helped broker a ceasefire deal among belligerent countries during the France-Africa summit in Paris in November, but that agreement did not hold. The UN Security Council issued three presidential statements between August and December, in which council members called for an end to hostilities, and it adopted resolution 1234 on 9 April, which called for the withdrawal of "uninvited troops" from the country.

Senior UN officials have attended negotiation sessions under the Lusaka initiative, and Annan appointed UN Special Envoy for the DRC Peace Process Moustapha Niasse on 1 April to determine the positions of the parties, identify obstacles to the signing of a ceasefire agreement and make recommendations on a possible UN role to complement existing peace initiatives. Niasse briefed the Security Council on the findings of his mission in a closed-door session on Monday.

South Africa

On 23 August, prior to the creation of the Chiluba-led committee on the DRC peace process, a SADC meeting mandated former South African President Nelson Mandela, then chairman of SADC, to organise a DRC ceasefire in consultation with the OAU Secretary-General. Mandela's mediation efforts were reportedly constrained by differences of opinion with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who heads the SADC security committee that authorised the military intervention in support of Kabila.

The US magazine 'Newsweek' earlier this month reported that new President Thabo Mbeki would announce a fresh peace initiative - involving the deployment of South African peacekeepers and the transformation of the belligerent foreign army units in the DRC into a peacekeeping force - but government officials have denied the report, saying South Africa supported the Lusaka peace process.


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Item: irin-english-1073

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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